When my father first met his future mother-in-law, she was sitting at the kitchen table with a damp washcloth pressed to her forehead. Looking up at him, she sighed and said, “Do I even LOOK like a well person?”
Rosie was a hypochondriac, a worrier extraordinaire, and from age 40 on claimed she never slept a wink. (Of course that wasn’t true; Rose would nod off in front of the TV during the day, and survived on her frequent cap naps). Finally, in her early nineties, she shared an insight that had come to her late in life: “Don’t worry so much”, she told me. “It doesn’t really help”.
Easier said than done. Just as it was for Rosie, my bedtime has always been synonymous with circling thoughts, mental grievance-airing, and random streams of consciousness. But most of all, worry. And now that I’ve entered menopause I don’t stay asleep for more than two or three hours at a stretch.
Did I mention I have a 6 year old son who exhausts me? Nope, even HE isn’t enough to cure my insomnia.
Of course starting motherhood at 46 surely didn’t help. My son was an uexpected surprise. I didn’t know a thing about babies. So I worried about EVERYTHING! Even after baby Adam started sleeping through the night I was still waking every 2 hours like clockwork.
When Adam was still small enough for naps, I’d catch up by sleeping with him. Younger moms would be sneaking in their housework while I cuddled up with my wee one in peaceful slumber. Ah, bliss!
But naps disappeared when we tossed the binky. Now I needed a new strategy. I soon learned that instead of forcing myself to lie in bed until sleep returned I could set a time limit. Thirty minutes, tops.
These days, if sleep won’t come, I get up and do something productive ’til my eyelids droop. Even if I’m up for an hour or two it sure beats the heck out of counting sheep! Oh, and I go to bed earlier. No more late night TV or websurfing.
So here I am again, hitting the keyboard at 3:30 in the morning. I can type my worries out into cyberspace.
On the plus side it’s kinda peaceful at this hour. By 5:30 my eyelids should be feeling pretty heavy. And I’ll still have a good two hour nap before my little guy shouts for me from the next room.
That’s how I reconcile menopause, insomnia, and midlife motherhood.